If I had a mission statement for why I write, or if I had some sort of motto for what I stand for, then it’d be simply, “tell the truth.”
I guess when I think about it, I’ve never been good at lying – when I was a kid and I did something to rebel against my parents, I could never carry out the advice of my friends or siblings who would give me a good out: either an explanation for why I did something, or something to make the truth less clear.
Nevertheless, I lived for a long time being a truth-dodger to one extent or another. Sometimes it’d be at work, pretending to knew how to do something I didn’t know how to do; sometimes it’d be with my friends, pretending to like something I didn’t like to do; sometimes it’d be showing up to things I didn’t want to and didn’t even have to; sometimes it’d be chasing dreams I didn’t actually have because other people had them for me; sometimes it’d be failing to speak up about things I believed in or didn’t believe in.
I think my relationship with the truth became magnetic (in a north-south fashion) during a period when I had a lot of secrets to hide, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about hiding them. One night at a family event, they plagued my mind and I ended up breaking down crying. My family thought I was crying because my then-girlfriend had just left for Orlando and I missed her. Nope – I was crying because I was tormented. I had spent a good four months creating a mountain of secrets, when I knew that they were starting to pile up into plain sight. I didn’t know who to go to with them – I’d confessed my secrets to people; but often times they were people who didn’t share my convictions. They didn’t think it was a big deal. Then I confessed them to people who did share my convictions, and I got exactly the response I was afraid to get: Yes, Jeff…you’re in the wrong.
I’d created myself a massive case of cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I created secrets with/about someone/something I cared about deeply; a relationship I wanted desperately to maintain. On the other hand, they weren’t in line with the convictions of a group of people who cared about me and my well-being, and whose approval and love I also craved. But, I knew that one of them would be disappointed with a choice I made. Group A would take my decision not to engage as rejection, abandonment, alienation, and judgement. Group B would take my decision to engage as ideological rejection, abandonment, alienation, and judgement.
The dissonance eventually reached a fever pitch, ended in a break-up, and months and months of healing. Truth is the thing that has nursed me back to health. Un-truth, mis-truth, and dis-truth makes me sick (and, I’m inclined to think, should make humankind sick. I’m afraid our conscience [the immune system of the heart] has gotten us used to un-truth, mis-truth, and dis-truth.) And truth is like nutrients for the heart.
The only time the truth is bad is when the truth is bad. It’s bad for our political advancement, bad for our reputation, bad for our relationships. But if it’s bad in theory, how much worse is it in hiding? After all, what’s worse: never achieving a certain status; or having that status torn out from under you after you’re found out? The reality is, there’s a lot of bad truth about us. That’s just the way the world works – that’s the way it goes when we’re born with a sin nature. I’ve got a lot of bad truth about me – days I’ve snapped and lost my temper at my friends, girlfriends, co-workers, or my dog; nights I’ve lost control of my decision making and said things I shouldn’t say; financial decisions I shouldn’t have made; tricks I’ve discovered to feed an ebbing and flowing addiction to pornography; corners I’ve cut in my work to make my own life easier; lies I’ve told to get out of social engagements or other obligations; gossip I’ve spread about people; jokes I’ve made at the expense of others; and countless times I’ve preached one thing and practiced another.
But this is the fun part: I have nothing to lose. At least, I don’t think so, and even if I did stand to lose anything by telling the truth, I guess I’m naive enough to think it’ll all work out in the end because I guess I’ve deserved what’s coming to me.
I think we could all stand to be a lot more honest (I wanted to say a little, but I think that our status as truth-tellers needs more than a little help) with ourselves and with other people about a number of things.
I don’t love ending blogs with a call-to-action kind of thing, but I’ll leave you something in case you want to use it. This is a little prompt I whipped up when I started writing this, because I thought I’d end up using it. I just ended up airing a bunch of dirty laundry. I’m not afraid of my dirty laundry and I’d tell it to anyone (maybe it’s a bad habit, having you know how crappy of a person I am) but for now I’ll save it. Try it yourself, if you want. Keep it to yourself or share it with a best friend. But truth is healthy. It’s healing. It’s good.
(Note: It’s cynical in nature, perhaps, but I’m of the mind that we often conceal the bad truth and don’t have any trouble with good truth. So, assume that this is bad truth. Assume that everything you write here is something that you may not want someone else to see.)
About What You’ve Done
About What You Struggle With
About What You Believe
About What You Know/Don’t Know
About What You Want
About What You Can/Can’t Do
About What You Feel
About What You’re Afraid Of
About What You Experience
About What You Love
About What You Hate